Marla and I recently (well, a couple of weeks ago) got back from sixteen days snorkeling and diving in Bali. Our good friends and fellow fish geeks Jeff and Sandra graciously invited us to join them on their fourth trip to this gorgeous island. We stayed at three locations; two on the eastern Amed coast, and one at Pemuteran on the northwest coast. We had several spectacular days of snorkeling in Amed; you only needed to go a few yards from the shore to find excellent fish diversity and abundance, as well as dense coverage of soft and hard coral. Jeff remarked that coral health had declined significantly since their last visit four years ago, but it looked pretty good to Marla and me, especially compared to the bleached reefs here in Hawaii.
Pemuteran was a different story. In past decades fishing with explosives (!) and cyanide (!!), together with El Niño-induced ocean warming, had devastated the near-shore reefs. Beginning in 2000, various non-profits, Indonesian government agencies, local dive shops, and resorts began cooperating in a unique effort to restore the reefs. Dozens of large, steel, cage-like structures were placed at numerous locations in Pemuteran Bay. Amazingly, these structures were hooked up with very low voltage electrical current provided by land-based sources or by solar panels on rafts. The current is supposed to stimulate coral growth, producing up to a five-fold increase relative to non-electrified substrates. Small fragments of wild coral were initially harvested and transplanted onto the structures to supplement natural coral recruitment. It all appears to be working—the structures are covered with healthy young coral together with rich invertebrate and fish communities. Despite this, the near-shore snorkeling in Pemuteran was not as spectacular as in Amed, but persistence and close observation yielded some very interesting finds, some of which I’ll describe in a later post. One day Marla and I went on a dive a short distance offshore from Pemuteran with Sea Rovers, an excellent local dive outfit. (Jeff and Sandra snorkel, but do not dive.) As is generally the case offshore, water was clearer and fish more abundant than at the snorkeling sites off the beach.
The best thing about Pemuteran was its proximity to Menjangan Island, located about a forty minute boat ride to the west. Menjangan is part of the Bali Barat National Park, and both aquatic and terrestrial activities there are strictly regulated. As a result, the clear water around the island supports riotous numbers of fish, large and small, colorful and plain. I spent two days—one with Marla—diving Menjangan.
I ended up with several hundred photos from the trip. I’ve been having fun going through them trying to identify all the different fish species we saw. The count is well above one hundred species. Here’s a random handful of shots (all clickable)—more coming.
This was taken fifty feet down a steep wall at Menjangan Island. Three giant trevally patrol amidst the profusion of smaller fish—mostly fusiliers.
These are fire dartfish at maybe forty feet at Menjangan. These pretty guys are almost always seen in pairs hanging motionless, close to the bottom, ready to dart into nearby holes for cover. Hence the name dartfish.
Blackbelt hogfish, also called splitlevel hogfish, a favorite fish of mine for no particular reason, at Menjangan.
Redfin hogfish, again at Menjangan. This specimen is unusually lacking in the reddish coloration that gives the species its common name.
A slingjaw wrasse (I think; maybe a latent slingjaw wrasse) attended by bluestreak cleaner wrasses. Cleaner wrasses are the underwater photographer’s friends because the fish they clean tend to stay relatively still for cleaning, allowing close approach by divers. More on cleaner wrasses in a later post.
And then there are the non-piscatorial aspects of Bali. Here’s a dive boat at Jemeluk with Mt. Agung smoking menacingly in the distance. Agung had been threatening to erupt for a couple of months prior to our trip. It went off, temporarily closing Bali’s only international airport, just a couple of days after our departure.